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recording method vs sound reproduction

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There are many good music recordings but especially presently the majority are sounding unsatisfying to awful (no matter which format: vinyl or digital DSD/PCM, no matter which rate and file format). One reason is dynamic compression which is now often discussed but past that I find many recordings sounding artificial, making it difficult to relate to the musical content.

 

I was watching a Youtube video from Floyde Toole

which was dealing with subjective and objective measurements but also with loudspeaker design and room interaction. There were some short remarks about recording practice and the reproduction of music in listening rooms i.e the interaction of loudspeakers and rooms which made me think about the correlation of recording techniques and sound reproduction.

There are 2 ways to reproduce recordings: loudspeakers and head phones.

With headphones there is no room to consider(albeit there are small variations in ear shape) but most recordings are made for and monitored by loudspeakers. Binaural recordings work well with headphones. I made some semi-binaural recordings on my Sony “DAT-man” many years ago and they sounded quite decent despite the simplicity of the recording process (even with loudspeakers). Basically it is a 2 microphone (at the ear position or something approximating it) recording in 2 channels with no or minimal mastering. Binaural recordings are recording the sound at the listening position which is the sound of all musical sources together (direct sound) and the interaction of that sound with the room, so trying to record what one would hear at that position at that time (i.e no manipulation of time, delays, reverb etc. just the acoustical event). The quality of such recording is dependent on the acoustics of the recording room and the position within that room but experiencing that room is part of the musical enjoyment.

Early stereo recordings did something similar but were designed to be listened to through loudspeakers and many (in spite of technical deficiencies of that time) sound wonderful. The same principal applies: 2 microphones (different possible setups) into 2 channels and that is still done by a few small recording companies (like MA) presently and these are in my experience some of the most natural and musically correct contemporary recordings.

One obvious objection against this type of recording is that it records sound in a room and then it is reproduced in a different room thus layering the acoustics of the recording room on the acoustics of the listening room - so one room too many for a natural listening experience.

Most recordings today are made by many microphones close to the musical sources (even several microphones for large instruments like pianos). There were some rare attempts to reproduce each of these channels by a separated loudspeaker in the same or similar space as the recording room but one could argue that even the spacial signature of a loudspeaker would be different from a musical instrument. Normally these multitude of recording channels are mixed to 2 channels (or 5-7) for play back. Especially now with digital technology but also through analog means these recorded channels are mixed using manipulation in level, frequency and time. How it sounds is dependent on the taste of the recording/mixing engineer and the room/equipment used (which could be much worse than the one the listener uses). I think of it that it generates an artificial room through electronic means so not avoiding the 2 sequential room dilemma. It also leads to a lot of manipulations. Like Photoshop in photography these manipulations can yield good results but mostly generate an artificial reality I find very dissatisfying.

 

On this forum there are many with more insight into the recording process than me so I would like them to correct or elaborate on these ideas.

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I have seen a couple different research papers where recordings were made at the same time with several different miking techniques. Then judged by a panel as to which were most accurate upon playback over good systems. In one of those papers they used a very good system indeed. In one case the listening panel was shown positions of what was recording, and in the other they were present to hear it live. IRC, both chose Blumlein crossed figure 8's as most accurate. These both used playback over speakers. Speakers were used at an angle of 60 degrees for all playback. Strictly speaking accuracy during playback with crossed figure 8's would be improved somewhat if the speakers were angled at 90 degrees.

 

I have done a little recording, and find crossed figure 8 mikes or the mid/side version of that to perform most accurately most often. Other versions of paired mikes can also work very well if angle of recording and playback are taken into account. The better you deal with your room and the speakers within it the better it can be, but usually the recorded room masks your room pretty well spatially, but not in terms of frequency response. Sometimes those response errors can manifest as perceived spatial anomalies too.

 

Nevertheless, there are limits to true playback accuracy possible from using only 2 channels over speakers. More channels can create some more accuracy than 2 channels over speakers can. But for the mainly upfront portion of it stereo can be very good, and rarely is commercial recording that well done.

 

Now theoretically binaural could be better if you used a dummy head with the right shape and the correct outer ear shape. Some people find it works while in my experience binaural never quite delivers. And how much it delivers varies greatly from headphone to headphone. It also punctures the naturalness to me when minor movements of your head have the soundfield moving with you. In reality moving your head should occur within a static soundfield. That is something speakers get right better than binaural recordings over headphones. There is equipment which can process the sound so head movement allows the soundfield to remain fixed with headphones. I haven't had the pleasure of using such equipment, but many who have speak highly of it.

 

Now there are several variations of two microphone recording than can work quite well. They produce very natural sound handled properly. Such recordings commercially are extremely rare. Even many of the outfits with a rep for minimal miking and processing use three or four or several microphones for various reasons. Similar to compression and the loudness wars. A little compression sounds better, sounds louder and within reason we always perceive louder as better. Until of course it becomes a ridiculous amount. Blend a couple extra mics for better low end or a bit more room sound being evident or whatever. In those ways it sounds a touch better until it becomes ridiculous.

 

As much as I wish more recordings were done simply, and the good sound comes from the good musicians in a good space that is not happening. The genie will not be put back into the bottle except rarely.

 

Now for an example. Several of the Enya tracks on her early CDs were made with extreme layering on her voice or so I have seen reported. She sings the vocals once, then a second time, and then a third time and so on and so forth. These are all mixed together. With of course slight variations in her voice, her pitch or timing. The extreme layering involved her doing this over 100 times for a few of the songs. So she sung those lyrics 100+ times and they were mixed together. A few too far out of timing were tossed. You get this ghostly, spacely unique sound to her voice. It isn't and could never be natural. In this case, in my opinion, it actually was in good taste and makes for a pleasing and interesting sound. There is no natural version of it however.

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I have seen a couple different research papers where recordings were made at the same time with several different miking techniques. Then judged by a panel as to which were most accurate upon playback over good systems. In one of those papers they used a very good system indeed. In one case the listening panel was shown positions of what was recording, and in the other they were present to hear it live. IRC, both chose Blumlein crossed figure 8's as most accurate. These both used playback over speakers. Speakers were used at an angle of 60 degrees for all playback. Strictly speaking accuracy during playback with crossed figure 8's would be improved somewhat if the speakers were angled at 90 degrees.

 

I have done a little recording, and find crossed figure 8 mikes or the mid/side version of that to perform most accurately most often. Other versions of paired mikes can also work very well if angle of recording and playback are taken into account. The better you deal with your room and the speakers within it the better it can be, but usually the recorded room masks your room pretty well spatially, but not in terms of frequency response. Sometimes those response errors can manifest as perceived spatial anomalies too.

 

Nevertheless, there are limits to true playback accuracy possible from using only 2 channels over speakers. More channels can create some more accuracy than 2 channels over speakers can. But for the mainly upfront portion of it stereo can be very good, and rarely is commercial recording that well done.

 

Now theoretically binaural could be better if you used a dummy head with the right shape and the correct outer ear shape. Some people find it works while in my experience binaural never quite delivers. And how much it delivers varies greatly from headphone to headphone. It also punctures the naturalness to me when minor movements of your head have the soundfield moving with you. In reality moving your head should occur within a static soundfield. That is something speakers get right better than binaural recordings over headphones. There is equipment which can process the sound so head movement allows the soundfield to remain fixed with headphones. I haven't had the pleasure of using such equipment, but many who have speak highly of it.

 

Now there are several variations of two microphone recording than can work quite well. They produce very natural sound handled properly. Such recordings commercially are extremely rare. Even many of the outfits with a rep for minimal miking and processing use three or four or several microphones for various reasons. Similar to compression and the loudness wars. A little compression sounds better, sounds louder and within reason we always perceive louder as better. Until of course it becomes a ridiculous amount. Blend a couple extra mics for better low end or a bit more room sound being evident or whatever. In those ways it sounds a touch better until it becomes ridiculous.

 

As much as I wish more recordings were done simply, and the good sound comes from the good musicians in a good space that is not happening. The genie will not be put back into the bottle except rarely.

 

Now for an example. Several of the Enya tracks on her early CDs were made with extreme layering on her voice or so I have seen reported. She sings the vocals once, then a second time, and then a third time and so on and so forth. These are all mixed together. With of course slight variations in her voice, her pitch or timing. The extreme layering involved her doing this over 100 times for a few of the songs. So she sung those lyrics 100+ times and they were mixed together. A few too far out of timing were tossed. You get this ghostly, spacely unique sound to her voice. It isn't and could never be natural. In this case, in my opinion, it actually was in good taste and makes for a pleasing and interesting sound. There is no natural version of it however.

 

Figure-of-eight miking is excellent because it picks up the entire sound field, rather than just the individual instruments. That means the room/hall sound is represented as well. But such miking practice is impractical in a live concert where you want to minimize the "audience participation" in the recording. It is also fairly useless in a studio recording because there is nothing behind the figure-or-eight mikes to pick up, just the studio wall. Second best, and what I generally use, is a variation on the XY miking scheme, in which two cardioid mikes are used on a stereo "T" bar about 7" inches apart and 90 degrees from one another or I use a true stereo microphone. Another arrangement that gives realistic stereo is the so-called M-S (for Middle-Side) miking arrangement. This consists of a single figure-of-eight mike arranged at a right angle to the musicians and a cardioid or omnidirectional mike pointed at the center of the musicians (yes, it's a mono pickup). The two mike signals are matrixed at the mixer to give stereo. Again, I use a cardioid here because an omni would pick-up too much audience.

 

 

 

320px-MS_stereo.svg.png

M-S Miking Using

An Omni for the 'M'

Mike

 

Ela-M-270-Mic-no-box_sm.jpg

True Stereo

Mike from

TeleFunken

The top capsule

Rotates in relation to the

bottom capsule and the

mike base

 

X-Y Pair.JPG

 

XY Configuration of a Stereo

Pair Mounted on a stereo 'T'-bar

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Incidentally, a few hours before you, in a parallel Forum I started Polyhymnia : "Phillips Classics legacy" Thread.

 

You might specifically like to read polyhymnia.com/studios-equipment (and then try contacting them for further insights). An extract as quick example :

Polyhymnia has a rich tradition, dating back 50 years, of building and modifying our own recording equipment. In fact, for many years all of the equipment used by PolyGram recording studios worldwide was built in Baarn. Some of this equipment is still in frequent use...

 

Studio 3 in Baarn:

Polyhymnia-2web.jpg

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The first time I became full aware of the different stereo recordings techniques was when I got Stereophile's test CD 3 in 1995. I guess the art of stereo 2 microphone recording is to match microphone, miking technique, room acoustics and performance.

There are multi miked recordings I find very interesting like Colin Stetson's New history of warfare Vol.2 which uses up to 20 microphones on a single instrument with no overdubs. Here the recording technique is integrated in the musical expression, just listening to that saxophone in the room would be a completely different experience! But for normal acoustic music I greatly prefer what can be achieved with 2 microphones.

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Stereo recording is as old as the hills now. Yes, there are different mike techniques, some of which, like two-mike coincident pair and binaural, have theoretical advantages. But, they have flopped commercially and they have other practical and theoretical problems that have not been solved. There are few such recordings that are recent and take advantage of the better, higher resolution equipment we have today. Two-mike is also anathema to the recording of pop music where multitrack mixing of different performers on their own separately miked tracks has long been preferred in order to be able to create an "artistic" mix.

 

I am a classical music guy and I finally came to the realization that stereo itself was the limiting factor. Yet, it persists in popularity in spite of the realization by many sophisticated listeners that stereo still leaves a big gap in recreated realism vs. the live event. I think that is true no matter what one does in milking with stereo or even with the fanciest playback gear. So, I think trying to "perfect" the stereo recording/playback process is a lost cause. The gap vs. live music still remains and it will continue to do so because the listening models in stereo, even at their best, have important weakness and limitations.

 

Discretely recorded multichannel is the biggest step forward toward better recording/playback realism in my book since the advent of stereo itself. It is a small niche commercially and primarily used via hi rez SACD and for music on BD-A or -V. But, there are thousands of available recordings. I have about 3,000 such discs myself, and there are thousands more I do not have, yet at least. Some practitioners use a minimalist 5-mike technique - Channel Classics - while many more use multi-mike - Polyhymnia and many others. I have many excellent examples of both techniques and I have no clear favorite.

 

So, I sold off much of my stereo gear 8 years ago and I have never looked back. I just do not listen to much in stereo any more, except for the occasional important archival performance. Since then, I have heard no stereo even at ridiculous prices rivaling the cost of a decent house that comes close to the sound of my system or those of close friends with quality Mch systems. We all go to a lot of live concerts and to us, stereo just does not cut it any more.

 

And, I have not heard it, nor is it guaranteed to commercially succeed, but sonic realism might be on the threshold of getting better still via Auro 3D, which expands recording and playback into a true 3rd dimension, closer to what we actually hear live in the concert hall.

 

Stereo recordings cannot even dream of reducing the gap with a live event even vs. today's 2D 5.1/7.1 Mch recordings. But, the myth persists that somehow some great breakthrough or refinement of 2-channel stereo will do the trick. Sorry, stereo had its chance and improved though it is since the 1950's, it just ain't' gonna get there.

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Stereo recording is as old as the hills now. Yes, there are different mike techniques, some of which, like two-mike coincident pair and binaural, have theoretical advantages. But, they have flopped commercially and they have other practical and theoretical problems that have not been solved. There are few such recordings that are recent and take advantage of the better, higher resolution equipment we have today. Two-mike is also anathema to the recording of pop music where multitrack mixing of different performers on their own separately miked tracks has long been preferred in order to be able to create an "artistic" mix.

 

I am a classical music guy and I finally came to the realization that stereo itself was the limiting factor. Yet, it persists in popularity in spite of the realization by many sophisticated listeners that stereo still leaves a big gap in recreated realism vs. the live event. I think that is true no matter what one does in milking with stereo or even with the fanciest playback gear. So, I think trying to "perfect" the stereo recording/playback process is a lost cause. The gap vs. live music still remains and it will continue to do so because the listening models in stereo, even at their best, have important weakness and limitations.

 

Discretely recorded multichannel is the biggest step forward toward better recording/playback realism in my book since the advent of stereo itself. It is a small niche commercially and primarily used via hi rez SACD and for music on BD-A or -V. But, there are thousands of available recordings. I have about 3,000 such discs myself, and there are thousands more I do not have, yet at least. Some practitioners use a minimalist 5-mike technique - Channel Classics - while many more use multi-mike - Polyhymnia and many others. I have many excellent examples of both techniques and I have no clear favorite.

 

So, I sold off much of my stereo gear 8 years ago and I have never looked back. I just do not listen to much in stereo any more, except for the occasional important archival performance. Since then, I have heard no stereo even at ridiculous prices rivaling the cost of a decent house that comes close to the sound of my system or those of close friends with quality Mch systems. We all go to a lot of live concerts and to us, stereo just does not cut it any more.

 

And, I have not heard it, nor is it guaranteed to commercially succeed, but sonic realism might be on the threshold of getting better still via Auro 3D, which expands recording and playback into a true 3rd dimension, closer to what we actually hear live in the concert hall.

 

Stereo recordings cannot even dream of reducing the gap with a live event even vs. today's 2D 5.1/7.1 Mch recordings. But, the myth persists that somehow some great breakthrough or refinement of 2-channel stereo will do the trick. Sorry, stereo had its chance and improved though it is since the 1950's, it just ain't' gonna get there.

 

 

Needless to say, I disagree with you about the value of stereo recording. Most classical music lovers, when they are first exposed to a real stereo recording (and it is explained to them what they are listening to and how it differs from multi-track, multi-miked recordings) are astounded and mesmerized by how lifelike the recording sounds. The illusion of live musicians playing in an actual space is always a revelation to people who take their classical music seriously. Of course, pop music aficionados don't really enter into this discussion because most of them realize that their musical choices don't, and mostly can't, exist outside of a studio so the notion of stereophonic sound is pretty much a non-sequitur. As you sort of hint at, for the average music buyer, the idea of true stereo is passé. In fact the whole meaning of "stereophonics" has been corrupted to the point that the term is meaningless for most people. The word "stereophonic" does not mean two or more channels. It means three-dimensional sound (stereos is Greek for "solid", and phonos is Greek for "sound") and multi-track recordings made with a forest of microphones does not fit that definition (BTW, correctly done surround (musicians up front, ambience in the surround channels) is still stereophonic sound and not something separate from it). Now, I'm not advocating that real stereo recording is the only kind of recording that there should be. Different kinds of music warrant different recording techniques. Small ensemble jazz, for instance, is best served with close multi-miking mixed down to three channels: right, left, and a phantom center channel. This method gives the music a sense of intimacy not possible with more distantly miked methodologies. That's difficult to accomplish with a stereo pair. :)

 

As to the different types of surround sound, yes, I've heard surround recordings that work really well but those are few and far between. When investigated, it is found that they too are minimally miked with a stereo pair on the musicians and another stereo pair somewhere back in the hall (Ray Kimber's IsoMike SACD recordings, for instance). Most surround recordings are over-produced like much of today's recorded music (even classical). I've often wondered why anyone would spend perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars on stereo playback equipment in order to listen to sonic crap! There is a reason why recordings made back in the infancy of stereo recording in the 1950's still sell and sell well decade after decade. The recordings of C.R. Fine for the Mercury label and Lewis Layton and Richard Mohr for RCA Red Seal still set the standard for decent stereo, and people still appreciate what they accomplished and how good the recordings still sound with their often uncannily real soundstage and pin-point imaging; and not just right to left, but front to back and even image height in some instances.

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George - just a couple of things. First, the Mercury's and RCAs of the 50's were originally released to consumers on mag tape in 3 channel, which is how they were originally recorded. 2-channel playback was a compromise introduced later because that was the best they could do with the LP and the 45/45 degree cutting process. So, everything was down mixed on those labels from the get go, as they continued to record them in 3-channel. There are SACDs containing hi rez remasterings of many of those in both 2- and 3- channel. It is just no contest that the 3- channel sounds much better.

 

Second, as is clear, I was not born yesterday. I have many man-years of stereo listening experience dating way back before I discovered Mch. I have heard probably all the stereo recordings you have cited and many more on very good playback systems. My Mch system, which is very carefully calibrated and of very high quality, also plays excellent stereo when called upon. I can easily switch back and forth. I do not know exactly what you have heard in Mch or what the degree of your live concert attendance is. But, everyone who listens in my room who has good live concert experience strongly prefers the Mch vs. the stereo version of the same recording. They find it much more true to the live concert experience, as do I.

 

Your summary of the state of the quality of Mch recordings also betrays very superficial and apparently trumped up knowledge based on what appears to be little experience with classical Mch media and sound systems. Great sounding Mch recordings are not few and far between at all. One of my closest friends reviews many Mch recordings for a couple of major magazines. You would know his name. He does not share your dismissive view which is clearly based on precious little experience.

 

 

IsoMike - yes I have them all. Good, yes, but there are better which happen not to be minimally miked. In any case, ISoMike did not set the world afire and the label is defunct after only a few releases. Meanwhile, labels like BIS, Channel Classics, Pentatone, RCO Live, Harmoni Mundi, and many more small, European labels dedicated to Mch continue to turn out really excellent classical recordings as they have done for years.

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George - just a couple of things. First, the Mercury's and RCAs of the 50's were originally released to consumers on mag tape in 3 channel, which is how they were originally recorded. 2-channel playback was a compromise introduced later because that was the best they could do with the LP and the 45/45 degree cutting process. So, everything was down mixed on those labels from the get go, as they continued to record them in 3-channel. There are SACDs containing hi rez remasterings of many of those in both 2- and 3- channel. It is just no contest that the 3- channel sounds much better.

 

That's not exactly true. Strictly speaking, there were never any 3-track tape players designed for the consumer market. Sure, a well-healed enthusiast could buy a 1/2-inch three-track deck from Magnecord or Ampex in the late '50's, but they certainly weren't consumer decks.

 

Secondly, when RCA released their first spate of stereo tapes and players in 1955, they were not three-track, but rather they were staggered-head two track machines and tapes. They were staggered because at the time, nobody made stereo heads, so RCA mounted two 1/2-track mono heads side-by side with one inverted from the other. This meant, of course, that they had to be played back on a machine with the playback heads staggered equally distant from each other as the record heads, otherwise the sync between channels would not be maintained.

 

Since I knew Bob Fine (slightly - I used to run into him at AES conventions in the early 1970's) and had many conversations with him, I know the reason that Mercury recorded to three track in the late 50's and on into the 60's and it was not because three-track sounded better than two-track (even though it does). It was done because those were the days of "dual-inventory" records. that means that the same title was released both in stereo and mono versions and two spaced omni-directional mikes do not mix down into mono very well due to a lack of phase coherence. So a center mike and a center channel were recorded along with the spaced stereo array as a mono pickup. The center channel became the master for the mono release of the title. During a playback session back in Fine's New York studio, his assistant, Bob Eberenz, noticed that mixing the mono center channel equally into both the right and the left channels, gave a more solid image. Henceforth, all "Living Presence" stereo cutting masters contained all three channels. Fine told me that he felt that he had to use omni-directional mikes for his recordings because the cardioids of the day (which he admitted gave much better stereo) had poor frequency response off-axis. I don't know this for sure, but since early RCA Red Seal recordings were strictly two-track stereo, and Layton and Mohr only went to three-channel when stereo LPs were introduced, my guess is that they recorded three-channel for the same reason as did Fine.

 

I do agree with you however that if you have heard the SACD Mercury's and the SACD RCA Red Seals where the surround channels consist of only right, left and center played that way over three identical speakers, they do sound really spectacular! That just wasn't the original intent of the third track.

 

Second, as is clear, I was not born yesterday. I have many man-years of stereo listening experience dating way back before I discovered Mch. I have heard probably all the stereo recordings you have cited and many more on very good playback systems. My Mch system, which is very carefully calibrated and of very high quality, also plays excellent stereo when called upon. I can easily switch back and forth. I do not know exactly what you have heard in Mch or what the degree of your live concert attendance is. But, everyone who listens in my room who has good live concert experience strongly prefers the Mch vs. the stereo version of the same recording. They find it much more true to the live concert experience, as do I.

 

I am a location recording engineer. I have probably recorded more symphony orchestra concerts than most people have attended. I have recorded in 4-channel, 2-channel and both digitally and analog. IOW, my experience isn't just listening to music, it's capturing it as well and it's extensive.

 

Your summary of the state of the quality of Mch recordings also betrays very superficial and apparently trumped up knowledge based on what appears to be little experience with classical Mch media and sound systems. Great sounding Mch recordings are not few and far between at all. One of my closest friends reviews many Mch recordings for a couple of major magazines. You would know his name. He does not share your dismissive view which is clearly based on precious little experience.

 

I have a Sony XA777ES multi-channel SACD player and I have scores of SACDs with surround channels on them. My main system is set up with 4 identical Martin-Logan Vantage ES speakers and I can and have listened to all of my multi-channel SACDs in surround mode. So your characterization of my "precious little experience" is incorrect. Sorry about that. Better luck next time!

 

 

IsoMike - yes I have them all. Good, yes, but there are better which happen not to be minimally miked.

 

Now we get to the crux of the debate. You see, I happen to believe that any classical recording not minimally miked is wrong. This is a matter of taste. But those titles that you find "better" than IsoMike recordings because they are not minimally miked, I dismiss out of hand as sounding terrible. I don't really care that you know some reviewer who happens to agree with you, If he thinks that surround recordings made with a forest of microphones sounds like real music, then his tastes and yours are antithetical to my own.

 

In any case, ISoMike did not set the world afire and the label is defunct after only a few releases.

 

Irrelevant. BTW, IsoMike was merely an example of correctly made surround. There are, of course, others.

 

Meanwhile, labels like BIS, Channel Classics, Pentatone, RCO Live, Harmoni Mundi, and many more small, European labels dedicated to Mch continue to turn out really excellent classical recordings as they have done for years.

 

Some are, some aren't. Some of the best surround I have ever heard was recorded using a British system called Ambisonics. This system used a tetrahedral microphone array called a Soundfield mike. The British record company, Nimbus used it a lot in the late 70's and 80's. What was good about it was that the microphone captured the space that the performance occupied, not just the instruments themselves. Images were stable, and life-like and the hall ambience was extremely realistic. It was not a commercial success either. While these recordings sounded very good, I found that Nimbus' approach resulted in a somewhat distant perspective with which I don't really agree.

 

Just to be clear, my initial post was not to criticize surround sound, but to counter your mistaken (and "very superficial and apparently trumped up knowledge" of the subject) belief that stereophonic sound and surround sound are two different animals and that stereo is passé. Correctly done surround IS stereo in that it fulfills the actual definition of stereophonic sound by "fleshing-out", as it were, the three-dimensionality of a real listening experience.

Edited by gmgraves

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Strictly speaking accuracy during playback with crossed figure 8's would be improved somewhat if the speakers were angled at 90 degrees.eZhjxA

 

 

You're making the classic error in viewing microphone pickup patterns as if they worked like camera lenses. They don't. There is actually little or no correlation between speaker placement and microphone arrangement. There are simply too many variables on both ends of the chain to make such a simplistic analogy.

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I am not an audio engineer, but I rather found than simpler miking technique could produce better sound reproduction, but of course we have many other things which happening in the middle. I have found on recent even good records and labels like ECM for instance that sometimes the record itself is overdone, meaning I can feel/hear too much trickery going around, than the sound is dull, limited without musicality - boxy. Part of that is the layering of the studio, mixing, mastering, but maybe also miking.

 

If I compare old records, from 50's, 60's where we didn't have all of these good stuff in the studio and only pair of mikes was used they have beside their sound limitations something in it - musical content which cause you toe-tapping. It has nothing if high resolution or not and what sampling rate it has. Just my five cents, probably OT.

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I am a location recording engineer. I have probably recorded more symphony orchestra concerts than most people have attended. I have recorded in 4-channel, 2-channel and both digitally and analog. IOW, my experience isn't just listening to music, it's capturing it as well and it's extensive.

 

I have a Sony XA777ES multi-channel SACD player and I have scores of SACDs with surround channels on them. My main system is set up with 4 identical Martin-Logan Vantage ES speakers and I can and have listened to all of my multi-channel SACDs in surround mode. So your characterization of my "precious little experience" is incorrect. Sorry about that. Better luck next time!

 

 

Now we get to the crux of the debate. You see, I happen to believe that any classical recording not minimally miked is wrong. This is a matter of taste. But those titles that you find "better" than IsoMike recordings because they are not minimally miked, I dismiss out of hand as sounding terrible. I don't really care that you know some reviewer who happens to agree with you, If he thinks that surround recordings made with a forest of microphones sounds like real music, then his tastes and yours are antithetical to my own.

 

Irrelevant. BTW, IsoMike was merely an example of correctly made surround. There are, of course, others.

 

Some are, some aren't. Some of the best surround I have ever heard was recorded using a British system called Ambisonics. This system used a tetrahedral microphone array called a Soundfield mike. The British record company, Nimbus used it a lot in the late 70's and 80's. What was good about it was that the microphone captured the space that the performance occupied, not just the instruments themselves. Images were stable, and life-like and the hall ambience was extremely realistic. It was not a commercial success either. While these recordings sounded very good, I found that Nimbus' approach resulted in a somewhat distant perspective with which I don't really agree.

 

Just to be clear, my initial post was not to criticize surround sound, but to counter your mistaken (and "very superficial and apparently trumped up knowledge" of the subject) belief that stereophonic sound and surround sound are two different animals and that stereo is passé. Correctly done surround IS stereo in that it fulfills the actual definition of stereophonic sound by "fleshing-out", as it were, the three-dimensionality of a real listening experience.

George - I respect your experience. However, it is clear that you are missing something by insisting on 4.0 rather than 5.0. The ITU standard using 5.0/5.1 is the de facto standard used by most classical recording teams today. The major exceptions are many releases on the LSO Live and Hyperion labels and a few others. But, you will find that those efforts are not highly regarded sonically for that and other reasons, and not just by me. Our ears have very high directional sensitivity front and center, so the center channel becomes important for best imaging vs. a phantom center. It also "anchors" the image in spite of slight, conscious or unconscious turns of one's head.

I have also had this same 4.0 vs. 5.0 argument with Peter McGrath, who, like you, insists on bucking the current trend and living in the quad-era past. There is 25% more information conveyed by the center channel vs. 4.0, and it is not simply the redundant sum of Front L+R.

And, just for the record, I am quite aware of the true definition of "stereo". I have used the word as most people understand it, which is to mean 2-channel sound.

I understand and lived through the dark days originated mainly by DGG of the highly multi-miked, "multiple mono" stereo recordings. I also have great respect for Jared Sacks at Channel Classics and his minimalist 5.0 milking. He does produce many excellent recordings that way, from chamber to symphonic scale. But, I have just as much respect for the output of Polyhymnia, Sound/Mirror, Jack Vad, Michael Bishop, and many other engineering teams who use extensive multi milking.

I have no exact explanation for it, just a layman's theory, but the old characteristic signature of multi-milking just does not show up to my ears in countless modern Mch recordings. I could provide a list of hundreds, but check out most anything on the RCO Live label, mainly Polyhymnia engineered, such as the excellent Mahler 3rd with Jansons and the Concertgebouw. Also, check out the BD-Vs of the Abbado Bruckner 5th at the Lucerne Festival or any of the San Francisco Keeping Score BD-Vs with MTT (except the Shostakovich 5th from the Albert Hall, which is poor). You can even see all the spot mikes in the videos, but the sound is really quite excellent with no audible trace of the multi milking.

There was also an interesting transition that occurred in the technical team that recorded the Mariinsky Orchestra under Gergiev. The first two releases had been engineered by Sound/Mirror in 5.0. Shostakovich's The Nose and his 15th were those releases and they received very high accolades for sonics. Sound/Mirror were then replaced by the Classic Sounds Ltd. team, of LSO Live infamy, who use a 4.0 technique. If you look at the trend of reviews and user responses at sa-cd.net, there is a clear drop off in perceived audio quality on that label. There were undoubtedly other factors than just 4.0 that contributed to this. But, the sound became run-of-the-mill, as is typical of the LSO Live Mch catalog?

Your praise of ISoMike is consistent with your 4.0 mindset. But, if you try the Mandelring Quartet's Shostakovich cycle on Audite or any of the 2L string quartet releases, all in 5.0, I think you will find them to be superior sonically to ISoMike 4.0's with the Fry St. Quartet.

Also, for chamber scale, try Sound/Mirror's superbly engineered Profanes et Sacrees with the Boston Chamber Players in multi-miked 5.0. Or, try their superb Beethoven Piano Sonatas with Peter Takacs on a Boesendoerfer. Or, for symphonic scale, their Brahms German Requiem with Levine and the BSO is quite excellent. I do not know of a better recording for large orchestra and chorus than that. I visited with Sound/Mirror at Symphony Hall, Boston several years ago and I got a guided tour of their extensive multi-mike setup, which is what they prefer everywhere. Yet, I do not hear the evidence of any inferiority of Mch mult-milking with Sound/Mirror engineering or a host of other excellent teams' recordings.

My examples only skim the surface, of course. But, it seems to me you need to get around more and listen with an open mind to a lot more modern, Mch recordings in true 5.0. Not saying your mindset was not once correct, but I think it gets in your way in appreciating what has been going on in discrete Mch. Great things have been happening over the past 10 years or more in Mch music recording. Ambisonics has been dead for a long time and is only a sentimental memory, like myth. There is absolutely no need for it, nor could it survive commercially, given what we have in discrete Mch recording today.

I also have 7 Martin Logan 'stat hybrids all around with a JL f113 sub, all fed by my PC, Dirac Live and the superb Exasound e28 DAC and some very good amps. This is beyond the sound I had only dreamed of for decades as a stereo-centric audiophile.

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I just looked through my CD/SACDs how many would be multichannel and I found only 10. So most music I like is not available in more than stereo. I guess if it would be more mainstream classic the selection would be larger.

I heard some demonstrations of multi channel systems (including Isomike)and mostly I found them not better than a good stereo system. The best sound came from a 5 Channel system but then they demoed also using only the 2 front and center channel and I almost preferred it to stereo or 5 channels (this may be depending on the recording). But the intention of that thread is not the difference of stereo or surround but how each channel is recorded: 1 single microphone in the room vs multiple (close) microphones mixed to each channel (one microphone feed could also end up in more than one channel)

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George - I respect your experience. However, it is clear that you are missing something by insisting on 4.0 rather than 5.0. The ITU standard using 5.0/5.1 is the de facto standard used by most classical recording teams today. The major exceptions are many releases on the LSO Live and Hyperion labels and a few others. But, you will find that those efforts are not highly regarded sonically for that and other reasons, and not just by me. Our ears have very high directional sensitivity front and center, so the center channel becomes important for best imaging vs. a phantom center. It also "anchors" the image in spite of slight, conscious or unconscious turns of one's head.

I have also had this same 4.0 vs. 5.0 argument with Peter McGrath, who, like you, insists on bucking the current trend and living in the quad-era past. There is 25% more information conveyed by the center channel vs. 4.0, and it is not simply the redundant sum of Front L+R.

I just use a phantom center when I listen to surround. I don't listen to it often, because of the issue I brought-up yesterday. Most of the time, I play only my own surround recordings which are 4 channel.

And, just for the record, I am quite aware of the true definition of "stereo". I have used the word as most people understand it, which is to mean 2-channel sound.

Well that's up to you, but technically, you are wrong. Most correctly, what you are referring to is "stereo surround" which clears-up any ambiguity in terminology.

I understand and lived through the dark days originated mainly by DGG of the highly multi-miked, "multiple mono" stereo recordings. I also have great respect for Jared Sacks at Channel Classics and his minimalist 5.0 milking. He does produce many excellent recordings that way, from chamber to symphonic scale. But, I have just as much respect for the output of Polyhymnia, Sound/Mirror, Jack Vad, Michael Bishop, and many other engineering teams who use extensive multi milking.

 

That's your prerogative, of course, but when it comes to multi-miking of classical music, for any reason, include me out!

I have no exact explanation for it, just a layman's theory, but the old characteristic signature of multi-milking just does not show up to my ears in countless modern Mch recordings. I could provide a list of hundreds, but check out most anything on the RCO Live label, mainly Polyhymnia engineered, such as the excellent Mahler 3rd with Jansons and the Concertgebouw. Also, check out the BD-Vs of the Abbado Bruckner 5th at the Lucerne Festival or any of the San Francisco Keeping Score BD-Vs with MTT (except the Shostakovich 5th from the Albert Hall, which is poor). You can even see all the spot mikes in the videos, but the sound is really quite excellent with no audible trace of the multi milking.

 

My main complaint is very apparent in most of the commercial surround recordings that I have: They don't have any image because the multiple mikes are pan-potted into position, and that is an electronic artifice that has no depth and can only move instruments laterally.

There was also an interesting transition that occurred in the technical team that recorded the Mariinsky Orchestra under Gergiev. The first two releases had been engineered by Sound/Mirror in 5.0. Shostakovich's The Nose and his 15th were those releases and they received very high accolades for sonics. Sound/Mirror were then replaced by the Classic Sounds Ltd. team, of LSO Live infamy, who use a 4.0 technique. If you look at the trend of reviews and user responses at sa-cd.net, there is a clear drop off in perceived audio quality on that label. There were undoubtedly other factors than just 4.0 that contributed to this. But, the sound became run-of-the-mill, as is typical of the LSO Live Mch catalog?

Your praise of ISoMike is consistent with your 4.0 mindset. But, if you try the Mandelring Quartet's Shostakovich cycle on Audite or any of the 2L string quartet releases, all in 5.0, I think you will find them to be superior sonically to ISoMike 4.0's with the Fry St. Quartet.

 

4.0 is what I prefer in surround. Actually, when push comes to shove and shove comes to fall-down, I really prefer 2.0 above all, and I have nothing but disdain for 5.1 for music (I guess it's OK for movies, I don't know. Few of the movies that I am likely to watch have 5.1 soundtracks) I have a number of 5.1 LPCM surround recordings on Blue-Ray, and I'm not really enthused about any of them. However a Naxos of Copland's Billy The Kid, Rodeo, etc. isn't too bad if one listens to the two-channel "mix" on the disc.

Also, for chamber scale, try Sound/Mirror's superbly engineered Profanes et Sacrees with the Boston Chamber Players in multi-miked 5.0. Or, try their superb Beethoven Piano Sonatas with Peter Takacs on a Boesendoerfer. Or, for symphonic scale, their Brahms German Requiem with Levine and the BSO is quite excellent. I do not know of a better recording for large orchestra and chorus than that. I visited with Sound/Mirror at Symphony Hall, Boston several years ago and I got a guided tour of their extensive multi-mike setup, which is what they prefer everywhere. Yet, I do not hear the evidence of any inferiority of Mch mult-milking with Sound/Mirror engineering or a host of other excellent teams' recordings.

I suspect that we listen for different things in our pursuit of high-fidelity.

My examples only skim the surface, of course. But, it seems to me you need to get around more and listen with an open mind to a lot more modern, Mch recordings in true 5.0. Not saying your mindset was not once correct, but I think it gets in your way in appreciating what has been going on in discrete Mch. Great things have been happening over the past 10 years or more in Mch music recording. Ambisonics has been dead for a long time and is only a sentimental memory, like myth. There is absolutely no need for it, nor could it survive commercially, given what we have in discrete Mch recording today.

It's obvious that you are passionate about surround sound. I am not. I find just getting 2-channel stereo right is challenge enough without adding another layer of complexity. The fact is that is that surround sound for music is the niche market and two-channel is the mainstream. I don't think that surround will ever be a market leader, and while, if what you are passionate about, is surround sound, then an evangelistic attitude is natural, and I certainly understand your passion, even though I do not share it.

I also have 7 Martin Logan 'stat hybrids all around with a JL f113 sub, all fed by my PC, Dirac Live and the superb Exasound e28 DAC and some very good amps. This is beyond the sound I had only dreamed of for decades as a stereo-centric audiophile.

 

Looking back on what I wrote last night, I misspoke. I don't have M-L Vantages, I have M-L Vistas I get the two models mixed up all the time and tend to transpose the names if I'm not really careful. The difference, of course, is that the Vantages have powered subs built-in and the Vistas do not. I have a pair of powered Athena subwoofers that I use because I don't like mono bass. That's one reason why I have no interest in 5.1 (or 7.1) surround.

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Strictly speaking accuracy during playback with crossed figure 8's would be improved somewhat if the speakers were angled at 90 degrees.eZhjxA

 

You're making the classic error in viewing microphone pickup patterns as if they worked like camera lenses. They don't. There is actually little or no correlation between speaker placement and microphone arrangement. There are simply too many variables on both ends of the chain to make such a simplistic analogy.

 

Well, George, believe what you want. But, Kavi Alexander, for one, who exclusively uses coincident pair recording for his Water Lily recordings, would strongly disagree with you. sixaugfb is right. Check also Robert E. Greene's audio blog. REG is a strong proponent of the Blumlein mike technique, and he has worked with Kavi on numerous recordings. And, it says so right on the Water Lily album covers. Professor Greene could prove it to you mathematically and he has a second listening chair at the +- 90 position in his listening room just for that reason.

 

Sure, you can listen without doing that, but that negates the spatial advantages of the coincident pair technique. It is part of the reason that mike technique has flopped commercially, since it requires a different speaker positioning.

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Well, George, believe what you want. But, Kavi Alexander, for one, who exclusively uses coincident pair recording for his Water Lily recordings, would strongly disagree with you. sixaugfb is right. Check also Robert E. Greene's audio blog. REG is a strong proponent of the Blumlein mike technique, and he has worked with Kavi on numerous recordings. And, it says so right on the Water Lily album covers. Professor Greene could prove it to you mathematically and he has a second listening chair at the +- 90 position in his listening room just for that reason.

 

First of all, I don't believe what I want to believe, I believe what I know! Are you talking about about a coincident pair of cardioids or a pair of crossed figure-of-eights? The pickup patterns for figure-of-eights and cardioids are not the same and the former are not considered a coincident technique. I do 95% of my recordings using a some variation on the coincident pair of cardioids method, and believe strongly (and I have test CDs to prove it) that coincident miking with cardioids is the best way to record a live event. It yields a phase coherent recording that has pin-point imaging (and minimal audience pickup). When I don't have an audience to deal with, I often use M-S miking. I have recordings that I have made of experiments where both a spaced array of omnis was used along with a coincident pair of the same jazz orchestra rehearsing the same piece of music. Listening to both (one right after the other) will leave no doubt in the minds of even the most casual observer as to which yields the most accurate stereo sound stage.

 

Sure, you can listen without doing that, but that negates the spatial advantages of the coincident pair technique. It is part of the reason that mike technique has flopped commercially, since it requires a different speaker positioning.

 

 

Bull Puckey! Have you personally tried this or are you talking through your hat again? I have 35 years of recording experience and I have tried everything. If by coincident miking you really mean crossed figure-of-eights, I've made recordings using figure-of-eight mikes (actually it's one big-capsule stereo mike where the capsules can be rotated in relation to one another and can be switched between cardioid, fig-8, and omni) and most of the time they have no real advantage (and some well known disadvantages) over coincident cardioids unless one is recording in an empty auditorium or some such space.

 

Theoretically, and mathematically, it's possible that in an anechoic chamber, angling true line-source speakers at 90 degrees to mirror-image the crossed figure-of-eight (or coincident cardioid) mike arrangement might make some difference, but in most real listening environments it simply doesn't. It depends on the speaker to a large extent and there is really no such thing as a true line source; that's an ideal speaker radiation pattern and has yet to be realized (as far as I can tell). For instance, on the playback side, Magneplanars sound and image best when toed-in slightly, but Martin Logans like to be square to each other because of their curved diaphragms. Other speakers respond differently depending on their radiation patterns. No one who understands what they are talking about would ever say that all speakers require the same positioning for best imaging and that they need to be moved depending on what stereo mike arrangement was used to capture any given performance (how would most listeners know what mike arrangement was used, anyway?).

 

As to your conclusion that coincident pair "has flopped commercially", it's patent nonsense (much like the nonsense you were trying to sell yesterday about early consumer stereo tapes being three-track). Coincident miking has no more flopped commercially than any other mike technique! Different microphone techniques exist because of different recording situations and the skill set and tastes (or lack of same) of the producers and recording engineers involved.

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Recalling the following, June 2009, Post by Robert (von Bahr, CEO, BIS Records and eClassical) :

Here's an answer from Ingo Petry, the most senior of our recording engineers/producers.

May I suggest that someone actually takes him up on his offer towards the end. We'd be delighted to show how it is really done!

Best - Robert

 

 

Ok but only brief...

 

Example of a typical BIS microphone setup for large orchestra:

 

Main mics: spaced omnis, for example TLM 50 or KM 130 (all Neumann), if also surround sometimes an additional Center mic mostly of the same type as the AB configuration.

 

Surround mics: could be anything from omnis to figure of eight, depending very much on the hall and the music.

 

Spot mics: KM 143s, 184s, TLM 149s and other members of the Neumann family depending on instruments and/or musical content and/or hall specifics.

 

Distances, angles etc. run within a certain frame but are adjusted to the acoustical environment one has to cope with :-)

 

This is of course only a 'shopping list' and if further interested can be cooked into a meal within a more private conversation but definitely not on this Forum!

Let me use this opportunity to say that real relevant questions like microphone placement and types etc. are so much more rewarding to discuss than the lately slightly overblown recording format dispute...

 

The reason that many people think that BIS has a rather high score in 'good sound' is simply that we at BIS agree on certain fundamental sound ideas. That includes also the importance of certain elements which may lead towards a good recording. Terms like 'openness, no coloration, impact, smoothness, personality, naturalness etc.' are all words we try to commit ourselves to.

 

And I must totally disagree with anybody who claims that just because a recording is not done all the way in the DSD domain, it cannot live up towards that goal. Just because one is believing in something very strongly doesn't make it more true...

 

Anyway, this discussion is an endless one and the positive thing I can still see with some of these strongly minded opinions within this Forum is that as long there is a discussion there is an interest and somebody who cares! And that is definitely the case for BIS and all its contributors!

 

At last some idea for people who are willing to look a bit behind the scenes before making all these assumptions and black-and-white comments. I strongly recommend to try to come to a recording session (any label not just BIS) and see first-hand what is it all about! For our label not so difficult because we do recordings in almost any possibe (or impossible) place on this planet.

 

See you there,

 

Ingo Petry,

Ingo-4x4.jpg?1379709991431

Record producer, sound engineer, BIS Records

I find that Petry can be contacted at Take5 Music Production, [email protected]

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Recalling the following' date=' June 2009, Post by Robert (von Bahr, CEO, BIS Records and eClassical) :

I find that Petry can be contacted at Take5 Music Production, [email protected]

 

Robert Von Bahr is saying much the same thing as I have been saying. That microphone choice and placement depends on the recording circumstances. I disagree with Bis' use of spaced omnis, but I have to admit that it's better than a whole forest of microphones where each instrument of each section is miked separately and then everything is mixed and pan-potted together to form a whole and utterly artificial "performance".

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I suspect that we listen for different things in our pursuit of high-fidelity.

 

George - you got right.

But, when I add up what you have said, I think you are inflating your Mch experience both in recording and in listening. I am not aware of any commercial Mch recordings you may have done. Please correct me if I am wrong.

You think you know all about Mch classical recording, but you clearly do not. You strongly object to some modern Mch recording best practices, whether minimally or mult-miked. You are unable to play them back as intended in 5.0 ITU. You also have a blasé attitude about speaker placement, which is fairly critical for best Mch sound. And, your actual listening experience with a decent sized sample of modern Mch recordings played on a properly set up system is suspect. Yet, you rush to judgement on all of them, citing doctrines and beliefs of your own, whether you know how they were made or not.

My main complaint is very apparent in most of the commercial surround recordings that I have: They don't have any image because the multiple mikes are pan-potted into position, and that is an electronic artifice that has no depth and can only move instruments laterally.

In the process, you cite bogus issues such as "pan-potting", which does not occur in best classical Mch music recording practice. That does occur in Mch remasterings from multi-track pop recordings, such as Dark Side of the Moon, agreed. But, so what? It is not an issue with classical recording, which we were discussing. You have invented a non-existent issue merely to bolster your weak argument.

What can I say about "they don't have any image"? Yeah, well, that can happen if you disregard proper ITU speaker layout. But, it does not happen on my system or on numerous others I have heard. The frontal image simply collapses in both width and depth and hall ambience is greatly diminished on switching between hi rez Mch and stereo. It is quite a compelling demo on any properly set up system.

So, others may choose to believe your sweeping dismissal of classical Mch, which is their right. But, I will stick with Mch myself, thank you. That is true whether or not Mch is "popular". Classical music is already a small niche. And, hi rez Mch classical an even smaller one. But, the recordings keep coming. Check out HRAudio.net (formerly sa-cd.net) for a complete catalog, non-classical genres as well, which identifies recordings in Mch.

None of the active classical concert goers I know - who are all smart, experienced and sophisticated audiophiles, by the way - disagree with me that properly done, discretely recorded Mch is the closest recordings have yet come to reproducing the realism of the live event in the concert hall. Mch simply captures several times more information from the live event than 2-channel, and it successfully reproduces that to our ears in the listening room given a properly set up system.

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And a somewhat companion (same snapshot of 2009 BIS) reply to Petry's :

Here is the email from BIS in response to my question "What PCM format do you use?":

 

 

"We record everything 44.1kHz 24 bit. Of course in post production we also use 32bit as a recording format when applying level changes.

 

About 5 years ago we decided to embrace the SACD as an Audio Format for mainly 3 reasons:

1. By far superior sound quality than CD no matter what High Resolution Format you choose.

2. the only existing (surviving) carrier for Surround Sound - this is really a huge benefit in our opinion

3. Hybrid disc allows backwards compatibility with ordinary CD Players. thus we produce only one carrier

 

In the beginning we had generous technical Support from SONY, who wanted to push the format. but the logistics did not work for the large number of SACD recordings we intended to do. And the machinery was far too complicated - especially when honoring the fact that we do all our chamber music recordings with only 1 person. Orchestras we usually record with a team of 2.

 

You could argue that recording in a higher sample rate would make sense. At least 88.2 kHz or 96, if not 352.8 like a few others do.

We did try to do that, but we had to discover a limiting factor in the necessary computer technology.

 

The main point is that some of the tools we need to create the best possible (and natural sounding) mix simply will not work at sample rates over 96 kHz. And at 96kHz they already do not have enough Inputs and Outputs, thus forcing us to make other compromises which will become far more audible than the difference between 44.1 kHz and 96kHz.

 

Last but not least: The CD layer is still 44.1kHz, so no converting is needed here. Since many (if not most) of the listeners still play the CD layer rather than SACD, we believe that they will at least benefit a little from NOT CONVERTING the recording. While those who listen to SACD layer really receive an excellent product. Converting to DSD is different from converting from 96kHz to 44, many CD players have already 1bit converters, they use similar technology, but the amount of DATA recorded on a CD (16bit) is still the limiting factor.

 

I could have given you a Yes/No answer, but I hope you will understand, that there are a lot of factors behind such a decision. It is not so much the recording format that matters (we are talking on a high level), but rather how you take care to capture sound by placing the microphones in the best possible way and then how you handle the recorded material.

 

If you look at our catalogue, you will see how many SACDs we have managed to release. They are all carefully produced, edited and engineered. We do like to use our own equipment, so we have to ship it around the world. The advantage is, that knowing our tools well keeps our focus on the music and the sound. Handling too complicated or unknown equipment will absolutely distract from the really important things.

 

Thank you for your interest. Since your questions have been quite to the point I am actually curious about your own position on this and how this may have influenced your opinion.

 

Kind regards,

 

Thore Brinkmann"

Thore-4x4_1.jpg

 

*The email is dated 1/19/09

Brinkmann too is currently of Take5 Music Production Edited by 徐中銳

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And a somewhat companion (same snapshot of 2009 BIS) reply to Petry's :

Brinkmann too is currently of Take5 Music Production

 

This article on Brinkman must be older. BIS has shifted to 96k/24 for the past year or two. I am anything but a sampling rate fascist. BIS recordings, even at 44k/24, are invariably excellent, multi-miked though they may be. Yes, their approach goes more in the minimalist direction, but it includes spot mikes. Listening on a good system, rather than beliefs and mind sets, demonstrates that excellence to a tee.

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George - you got right.

But, when I add up what you have said, I think you are inflating your Mch experience both in recording and in listening. I am not aware of any commercial Mch recordings you may have done. Please correct me if I am wrong.

 

I don't record commercially. I do location recordings for individuals, civic groups, jazz bands and chamber ensembles - but mostly for myself. The only commercial recording that I ever engineered was a Musical Heritage Society lute recording done in the late 1970's. I figure that if I can't buy recordings that sound like real music, I'll make 'em myself. And my Mch experience is limited. Few of my clients have ever requested it, and I can't stress this too strongly: I don't value it. All of the surround that I have done was for my own edification to see for myself whether it was worth the extra effort. I decided after making a dozen or so such recordings (trying different things) that I really don't care that much.

You think you know all about Mch classical recording, but you clearly do not. You strongly object to some modern Mch recording best practices, whether minimally or mult-miked. You are unable to play them back as intended in 5.0 ITU. You also have a blasé attitude about speaker placement, which is fairly critical for best Mch sound. And, your actual listening experience with a decent sized sample of modern Mch recordings played on a properly set up system is suspect. Yet, you rush to judgement on all of them, citing doctrines and beliefs of your own, whether you know how they were made or not.

 

Let me try this one more time. I have a four channel setup to monitor/listen to my OWN 4-channel recordings. I have scores of SACD and Blu-Ray recordings which contain surround mixes. I have listened to the surround material on all of them (usually soon after obtaining them) 90% of them are incompetently recorded and sound like crap to me! I have rarely listened to any of the surround layers more than once, because, as I said before, I do not value Mch or surround sound or whatever you wish to call it at all. I was heavily into the Quadraphonic fiasco of the 1970's. I tried SQ, QS, CD-4 (also known as "Quadradisc") and spent a passel of money on all of them. I even bought a Sony 850-4 tape deck so that I could record the fine San Jose Symphony Orchestra in Quadraphonic sound! (never did it though. There were too many obstacles to running the mike lines for the rear channels). Anyway, except for the Quad tapes I made (the best was a boy's choir in a large church. It always sounded spectacular) I was disillusioned by the poor recording practices as well as the lack of actual separation between the channels in the matrixed Quad formats and the poor S/N and high distortion of the sub-carrier based CD-4 format. The technical problems have long since been solved and we don't have those problems with separation any more, but I still find most modern surround to be poorly recorded and despite your obvious enthusiasm, I don't care about it! OK?

In the process, you cite bogus issues such as "pan-potting", which does not occur in best classical Mch music recording practice. That does occur in Mch remasterings from multi-track pop recordings, such as Dark Side of the Moon, agreed. But, so what? It is not an issue with classical recording, which we were discussing. You have invented a non-existent issue merely to bolster your weak argument.

 

You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. Of course, they pan-pot multiple microphones into lateral position! How the hell else do you think they got in the right place to begin with? The microphones don't know where they are located in the ensemble, The engineers have to "tell them" where they are supposed to be in the musical ensemble and they do that with pan-pots!

What can I say about "they don't have any image"? Yeah, well, that can happen if you disregard proper ITU speaker layout. But, it does not happen on my system or on numerous others I have heard. The frontal image simply collapses in both width and depth and hall ambience is greatly diminished on switching between hi rez Mch and stereo. It is quite a compelling demo on any properly set up system.

 

You don't need to say anything. If you think these wholly artificial presentations have any real imaging, then you don't understand what actual soundstage is at all!

So, others may choose to believe your sweeping dismissal of classical Mch, which is their right. But, I will stick with Mch myself, thank you. That is true whether or not Mch is "popular". Classical music is already a small niche. And, hi rez Mch classical an even smaller one. But, the recordings keep coming. Check out HRAudio.net (formerly sa-cd.net) for a complete catalog, non-classical genres as well, which identifies recordings in Mch.

 

My god, you just insist on making what started out as a simple discussion about stereo vs surround into some adversarial argument. As I said before, My contribution to this thread was merely to explain to you that two-channel stereo is neither dead nor passé, and that properly recorded Mch is still stereo. My mistake was to continue to engage you after I corrected your misconceptions.

None of the active classical concert goers I know - who are all smart, experienced and sophisticated audiophiles, by the way - disagree with me that properly done, discretely recorded Mch is the closest recordings have yet come to reproducing the realism of the live event in the concert hall. Mch simply captures several times more information from the live event than 2-channel, and it successfully reproduces that to our ears in the listening room given a properly set up system.

 

Christ, you don't read for comprehension, do you? Where have I disagreed that "properly done, discretely recorded Mch is the closest recordings have yet come to reproducing the realism of the live event in the concert hall"? It's the "properly done" part and what each of us considers "properly done" that seems to keep our views apart. This is going nowhere. I've tolerated your half-baked and often erroneous misconceptions about recording history and procedures, and put up with your insults long enough on this thread. Go, enjoy your Mch. believe your misconceptions, and enjoy them both in peace, but enjoy them without me. I won't respond to any more of your nonsense. So let's just agree to disagree, OK?

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You don't need to say anything. If you think these wholly artificial presentations have any real imaging, then you don't understand what actual soundstage is at all!

 

My god, you just insist on making what started out as a simple discussion about stereo vs surround into some adversarial argument. As I said before, My contribution to this thread was merely to explain to you that two-channel stereo is neither dead nor passé, and that properly recorded Mch is still stereo. My mistake was to continue to engage you after I corrected your misconceptions.

 

Christ, you don't read for comprehension, do you? Where have I disagreed that "properly done, discretely recorded Mch is the closest recordings have yet come to reproducing the realism of the live event in the concert hall"? It's the "properly done" part and what each of us considers "properly done" that seems to keep our views apart. This is going nowhere. I've tolerated your half-baked and often erroneous misconceptions about recording history and procedures, and put up with your insults long enough on this thread. Go, enjoy your Mch. believe your misconceptions, and enjoy them both in peace, but enjoy them without me. I won't respond to any more of your nonsense. So let's just agree to disagree, OK?

George - I think the adversarial argument started with you. I stated my listening impressions with Mch vs. stereo and on the work done commercially by some very good, very knowledgable classical music recording engineers, some of whom I know personally. They all cut their teeth on 2-channel recording and they have decided that Mch is just better for classical music.

 

I alluded to my long prior experience with live concerts and with stereo listening so that people could understand where I was coming from. You blasted my opinions and those recordings and how they were engineered, even the whole concept of Mch, based on your own recording experience and listening to some of them.

But, it is now clear that your own experience with Mch recording is amateur or semi-pro, at best. You really have no clue how those recordings are made commercially, and you are unable yourself to make a Mch recording that even satisfies you. But, you blast away at commercial Mch recordings and their technique, nonetheless. Did you ever consider the notion that you just flat out do not understand Mch, are doing it wrong and that the pros, who make a living in a competitive market for recording engineers, know some stuff that you do not?

You listen to those commercial recordings in a system not set up to the same ITU standards. And, you consider them as sounding like crap. You even listen to just the surround channels alone and conclude they do not sound any good, as if you actually knew what the surround tracks alone should sound like, given that they contain sound from distant mikes with tons of hall reflections. George, that's just nuts. It is even worse than judging a 2-channel recording by just listening to the left channel.

Suggestion: get hold of a Channel Classics SACD, like the recent Mahler 9th with Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Jared Sacks, the owner/engineer of Channel, uses only a pure 5-mike omni recording setup. (I am a good friend of a Grammy-winning classical Mch recording engineer who works for Jared. I have learned a fair bit from him.) Anyway, that should appease your minimalist mike dogma. Set your system up according to the ITU angular configuration, with equal volume settings for all channels. (You could look up the ITU standard.) Phantom center is not best, but it will have to do in your system. But, do not just throw the center channel information away. Reroute it, if you can, to mix with the front LR channels, as you said you could. The fronts of ML surround dipole speakers, by the way, should be pointed at the sweet spot, just in case you were doing something weird with them.

I am perfectly comfortable with you not liking Mch for whatever reason. But, you have now provided clarification of what your opinion is based on, and it is clear that you never listened to it as it was intended and by the standards it was engineered to. Even if you had done that, and you still did not like it, what could I say?

Actually, I would say this. Dismiss my opinion, but consider the well endowed, world class orchestras who have formed their own private labels, like the Concertgebouw, the San Francisco and Boston Symphonies. There are others in Europe, mainly. They could have chosen any media, recording teams and recording techniques, and could have adopted any approach they wished. Any engineer would have died to record these prestigious orchestras. And, the quality of those recording efforts would have been paramount to properly showcase the artistry of those fine orchestras. They just do not settle for crap.

So, what did they choose? They opted for the much more complex and costly approach of hi rez Mch, with RBCD and hi rez stereo spin off mastering derived from that. Those three orchestras all use multi-mike Mch engineering, by the way. The results speak for themselves, and they are uniformly excellent. So, do we believe you, with your very limited and tainted experience, or do we believe those orchestras are all a bunch of idiot lemmings? You are, of course right, as usual, and everyone else wrong, including me.

But, don't listen to me. Look at countless Mch recording reviews at sa-cd.net, in Andy Quint's TAS column or his Fanfare reviews or in Kal Rubinson's regular Stereophile column. More lemmings, I suppose, who do not understand proper imaging.

Of course, hi rez, classical Mch will never rule the world commercially. Who ever said it would? So, if commercial success is the litmus test for best sonics, listen to pop MP3s for heaven's sake.

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But, it is now clear that your own experience with Mch recording is amateur or semi-pro, at best. You really have no clue how those recordings are made commercially.

 

My 35 years as a PAID recordist (BTW, paid is the definition of professional) as opposed to your NO recording experience at all? You've rocks in your head. I know exactly how the recordings you are touting are made. I can tell how they were miked just by listening to them. As you say, they are multi-miked. And in classical music multi-miking is anathema to me. I don't care how spectacular you think they are, they are not true stereo, and true stereo is all I'm interested in. I don't care about Kal Robinson's column in Stereophile or Andy Quint's TAS column I rarely, if ever read either of them even though I subscribe to both rags. The subject just doesn't interest me, but I've met Kal when we both worked for Stereophile and he's a nice, knowledgeable guy. But our interests differ. I have nothing against real stereo, minimally miked "Mch" (as you like to call it), but I don't like anything captured with a forest of microphones irrespective of how many final channels we're talking about and whether or not it has a Mch layer is a matter of complete indifference to me. For instance, I just received a pre-release copy of Reference Recordings' upcoming Utah Symphony recording of Mahler's First on SACD. I don't even know whether it has a "Mch" layer or not. I haven't bothered to check. Why? Because I don't care. When I review this title (and I will) I'll review it as a two-channel SACD and check its Red Book CD layer for compatibility. And that's all I will comment on because that's how the vast majority of those who ultimately buy that title will listen to it. I'll let Kal and Andy review it for its Mch worth, if, indeed it has an Mch layer. Are we clear now? Are we done? You can go back to searching for that mythical consumer three-track tape deck you've been going on about, an those three track Mercury and RCA pre-recorded tapes that went with it. Let me know how that works out for you. :)

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Ok, George. Hopefully, we are done here. But, do try Channel Classics in Mch with a correct speaker setup. As I said, they are minimally miked, just 5 omnis, and also in pure DSD, if that matters to you. But, though you protest, I still do not believe you have any clue how truly professional hi rez Mch recordings are made. Yes, that varies somewhat from label to label and from team to team. But, I am having the time of my life with them. I never thought audio in the home could be this good. But, of course, unlike you, my sense of proper imaging is seriously handicapped, in spite of all the 2 dozen or so live concerts I attend each year. Vive la handicap!

 

BTW, Ampex made a 3-channel tape machine back in the 50's:

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_multitrack_recording

 

Yes, I realize it was a pro machine, and consumer versions for playback of 3-channel RCAs and Mercurys from tape never quite came to fruition. That idea was quickly overwhelmed by the appearance of the stereo LP, when standards for that medium were finally agreed upon, rather suddenly as I read in an archival copy of Audio Magazine. 2-channel LP technology was not new, but there were differing proprietary standards. Finally, there was industry-wide agreement in the late 50's using the Westrex 45/45 degree cutter head. And, of course, the LP was much cheaper to manufacture than tape reproductions. Unfortunately, we lost the center channel in that Faustian bargain in the interest of better market penetration. So, the rest, as they say, is history.

Edited by Fitzcaraldo215

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